Man who spent 25 days on ventilator with COVID gives back to those fighting


CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A man is helping others who are in a similar, scary situation that he found himself in. Last month, we introduced you to Michael O’Connor. The Kenmore father spent 25 days on a ventilator, fighting COVID-19.

News 4’s Kelsey Anderson recently met up with O’Connor at the Red Cross Donation Center on Union Road in Cheektowaga. He said he’s so thankful to be here.

“I just feel a lot more grateful now,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable the whole scenario.”

The 43-year-old was donating his convalescent plasma to up to three others in need of it. His plasma has those coveted coronavirus antibodies that may help critically ill patients who are currently fighting COVID-19. Michael said a local doctor he’s never met donated plasma to him months ago, when he was fighting for his life.

“It could’ve saved my life,” he said.

And this plasma is in short supply.

“We’re distributing the product faster than it’s coming in,” Jay Bonafede said, the Regional Communications Officer for the American Red Cross. “There’s been a surge in so many places across the country, so we’ve really seen the demand for this convalescent plasma product double in recent weeks.”

In order to donate, Bonafede said you must be fully recovered from the disease and feeling good. You must pass an antibody test, be at least 17 years old, and 110 pounds.

And the process takes longer than a normal blood donation. That’s because a high-tech machine collects a person’s plasma and then returns their red cells back into their body.

When we first met Michael in June, he had recently gotten out of the hospital, where he spent 25 days on a ventilator. He wasn’t able to pick up his kids or even walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Today, the Kenmore father of two is making massive strides in his recovery.

“I walk about two miles every day in my neighborhood,” he said. “I can pick up both my sons, and stairs is part of my daily routine too… I did 300 the other day. So I’m doing a lot better (and) getting a lot stronger.”

People can donate their plasma every 28 days, as long as they continue to have antibodies.

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